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October 11, 2006
Championship preview?: Before the start of the season, the SEC media predicted that Auburn and Florida would win their respective divisions. The two preseason favorites are headed in opposite directions entering into Saturday's confrontation on the Plains. Florida is undefeated and in sole possession of first place in the East. Auburn is coming off a stunning 27-10 home loss to Western Division rival Arkansas. This probably won't be a preview of the SEC championship game unless Auburn wins Saturday and gets some help from future Arkansas foes.
Best matchup: All the best individual matchups are in the Auburn-Florida game, which headlines this week's schedule. Auburn CB and Thorpe Award candidate David Irons will have his hands full against a talented Florida receiving corps that features Dallas Baker and Andre Caldwell. Auburn RB Kenny Irons will try to grind it out against a fourth-ranked Florida run defense that allows only 2.3 yards per carry. The best matchup in the other games could come between the hedges if Vanderbilt standout OT Brian Stamper recovers from the hamstring injury that sidelined him last week. The Commodores will need Stamper as they try to prevent Georgia's Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson from wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Worst matchup: Southeast Missouri State is a Division I-AA team that allowed 190 rushing yards last week in a 21-0 loss to Eastern Illinois. The Redhawks now face an Arkansas team that averages 5.7 yards per carry and just ran the ball down Auburn's throat. Don't be surprised if Darren McFadden and Felix Jones each rush for over 100 yards for a second consecutive week.
The pressure is on: Auburn RB Kenny Irons. Auburn's hopes for a national title have already faded. If they lose a second consecutive game Saturday, the Tigers also can pretty much forget about winning a conference title. Auburn won't beat Florida unless a big performance from Irons allows the Tigers to control the clock.
Upset alert: There's not much reason for an upset alert this week. Auburn is a slight favorite this weekend, but would a victory by one-point underdog Florida really constitute a major upset? All the other favorites should have relatively easy wins, unless Alabama plays as poorly as it did in last week's closer-than-expected victory over Duke.
Most to gain: Florida. If the Gators survive this weekend's trip to Auburn, they will have almost made it through that rugged four-game midseason stretch unscathed. History indicates Florida should beat Georgia on Oct. 28. If Florida manages to beat Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia in consecutive games, the Gators can make a convincing case that they belong in the national championship game.
Most to lose: Alabama coach Mike Shula. The Crimson Tide had lost two consecutive games before beating Duke 30-14 in a lackluster performance that did nothing to quiet Shula's growing number of critics. If Ole Miss manages to win in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Shula could find himself on the hot seat one year after winning a Cotton Bowl.
BCS implications: Auburn probably has to win the rest of its regular-season games to have any hope of earning a BCS berth. Florida has a legitimate shot at playing for the national title as long as it keeps winning.
Who's hot: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge already has set new career highs for passing yards (1,657) and completions (118) in a season. ? Arkansas RB Darren McFadden has taken over the SEC rushing lead after gaining 145 yards against Auburn last week. McFadden has gained 257 yards the last two weeks. ? Tennessee WR Robert Meachem ranks first in the nation with 112.5 receiving yards per game. ? Alabama WR D.J. Hall has compiled at least 100 receiving yards in three consecutive games. ? Mississippi State WR Tony Burks has collected at least 100 receiving yards three of his last four games. ? South Carolina has won four SEC road games in a row for the first time in school history. ? Kentucky LB Wesley Woodyard has collected 30 tackles in his last three games. ? Florida CB Ryan Smith has intercepted four passes in the last two weeks.
Who's not: LSU QB JaMarcus Russell threw three interceptions and lost a fumble last week as the Tigers fell 23-10 to Florida. ? Georgia QB Joe Tereshinski turned the ball over three times in the second half of a 51-33 loss to Tennessee. ? Ole Miss QB Brent Schaeffer hasn't completed more than half his passes in any game this season. ? After catching five touchdown passes in a victory over Florida Atlantic, South Carolina WR Sidney Rice has caught a total of five passes in the two games.
Must-see TV: Florida at Auburn (ESPN): This game may rank as the SEC's best of the season. It is the only game worth watching this weekend.
Newcomer who could have an impact: Auburn LB Tray Blackmon. The redshirt freshman linebacker returns from a six-game suspension just in time to make his Auburn debut against Florida's high-powered offense. The former five-star prospect was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 linebacker in the 2005 recruiting class. The hard-hitting Blackmon should make his presence felt immediately.
Key stat: The SEC has three of the nation's top six teams in scoring defense: No. 2 Florida (9.5 points allowed per game), No. 3 LSU (10.0) and No. 6 Auburn (11.3).
Take the line: The Florida-Auburn game is a virtual toss-up, with the Tigers listed as a one-point favorite at the start of the week. Florida may be playing better than anyone in the country right now, but the Tigers are playing at home and are eager to put the loss to Arkansas behind them. Auburn should win by a field goal to cover the spread. Season record: 4-3.
They said it: "We don't have time to sit on our butts and feel sorry for ourselves. We've got one of the hottest teams in the nation coming in here Saturday. I'm excited about having a big-shot team coming in here. We can hopefully gain some respect back that we lost."-Auburn LB Will Herring.
Injury update: Auburn C Joe Cope sat out the Arkansas game and will miss three to five more weeks with a knee injury. ? Auburn TB Brad Lester has a groin injury, but it shouldn't prevent him from playing this weekend. ? Florida DT Javier Estopinan has a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will sideline him for the rest of the season. ? Florida TB DeShawn Wynn (sprained knee) and WR Percy Harvin (high ankle sprain) are questionable for the Auburn game. Wynn didn't have a carry in the LSU game, but Gators coach Urban Meyer said the tailback could have played if they had needed him. ? Kentucky RB Rafael Little underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Monday and will miss at least a month. ? Kentucky DTs Lamar Mills (shoulder) and Myron Pryor (elbow) are questionable for the LSU game. Kentucky C Matt McCutchan may return this weekend after missing the Wildcats' last three games with a high ankle sprain. ? LSU OG Will Arnold will probably miss a second consecutive game with a sprained ankle. ? Mississippi State QBs Omarr Conner and Tray Rutland were injured last weekend in a loss to West Virginia. Rutland will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and medial collateral ligament in his left knee. The Bulldogs don't know how long Conner's severe groin strain will keep him sidelined. ? Ole Miss TE Robert Lane will probably miss at least two weeks with a sprained knee. ... Vanderbilt QB Chris Nickson's status for Saturday is uncertain after he bruised his left thigh and sprained his right ankle last week. ? Vanderbilt OT Brian Stamper missed the Ole Miss game with a hamstring injury and is questionable for this weekend.
Worth noting: Georgia coach Mark Richt is reopening the tailback competition. Kregg Lumpkin has rushed for 194 yards in two games since replacing Thomas Brown as the starter. Richt cited pass protection problems as a reason why he might make another switch. ? Darren McFadden's 63-yard run in a 27-10 victory over Auburn last week marked the first rushing touchdown the Tigers had allowed all season. ? South Carolina WR Sidney Rice has been working out as a free safety in the Gamecocks' prevent defense. ? Arkansas owns a 3-0 conference record for the first time since 1998. ? SEC players of the week from Week Six are Tennessee QB Erik Ainge (offense), Ole Miss LB Rory Johnson (defense), Florida P Eric Wilbur (special teams), Arkansas C Jonathan Luigs (offensive lineman), Arkansas DE Jamaal Anderson (defensive lineman) and Florida QB Tim Tebow (freshman).
Looking back: Darren McFadden and Felix Jones combined for 249 rushing yards as Arkansas upset Auburn 27-10. ? BenJarvis Green-Ellis rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns in Mississippi's 17-10 victory over Vanderbilt. ? Steve Slaton gained 185 yards as West Virginia whipped Mississippi State 42-14. ? Ryan Smith intercepted two passes as Florida forced five turnovers in a 23-10 triumph over LSU. ? Kenneth Darby rushed for 115 yards as Alabama outlasted Duke 30-14. ? Syvelle Newton passed for 171 yards and rushed for 77 more in South Carolina's 24-17 win over Kentucky. ? Arian Foster rushed for three touchdowns in Tennessee's win over Georgia.
Freshman who impressed: Tebow threw for a pair of touchdowns ? on his only two passes of the day - and ran for a third score in the Gators' 23-10 victory over LSU. The two touchdown passes were the first of Tebow's career and helped him win the Rivals.com national freshman of the week award. Although he's not a freshman, Ole Miss LB Rory Johnson is another newcomer who made an impact last weekend. The junior-college transfer collected 16 tackles, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles in the Rebels' 17-10 triumph over Vanderbilt.
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